One of the ways a new city starts to feel like home is noticing all the ways it’s changed since I arrived. When I lived in Kingston, a small city in eastern Ontario, a lot of people in our downtown and old-society social circles used to give directions by the traffic circle (that’s Upper-Canadian dialect for roundabout) that hadn’t existed since the 1970s, and used to call restaurants by names that weren’t on the sign. It felt exclusive to those of us who weren’t “old stones” (people whose roots were elsewhere), but after several years I found myself also talking about the traffic circle, the place where the beer store used to be, and so on..
And now I find myself doing the same thing in Edmonton. I’ve lived in one place for four years, and spent most of my time in the Strathcona/University neighbourhoods. So I’ve been here long enough to see some changes.
Transit When I arrived there were eleven LRT stops and now there are fifteen. The opening of South Campus station rearranged some bus routes, so that I used to take the #6 downtown and now I take the #7. Although lately I’ve gotten so annoyed with watching three #8s go by first that to go home from downtown I don’t wait at the Telus plaza for a bus; I take the LRT to the university and home from there instead. (MasterMaq discussed this problem in a recent blog entry.) The LRT extension north by the Kingsway seems to be really happening, and the next lines have gotten as far as having station names.
Restaurants Pad Thai is gone. ouSia opened and I still haven’t gotten around to going there. A crepe place popped up on Whyte Avenue and went away again. Langano Skies closed for renovations after the building fire, but is back. A noodles place across the road changed hands and is now Naanalicious. Four cupcakes places opened in Strathcona/Garneau. Death by Chocolate closed and eventually a Dairy Queen opened. A Funky Pickle outlet near U of A campus closed, but a Papa John’s opened. Cargo and James tea disappeared. Chili’s became O2. Bars come and go, often too fast for me to visit. The Savoy became the Gin Mill became Tilted Kilt, and I hadn’t been to any of them. The Iron Horse sat empty for ages, but didn’t wait for me to become a billionaire philanthropist and buy it to run a passenger- train line to Calgary – it became MKT. I think there was a live-music bar on the north side of Whyte Avenue which is now some kind of billiards-themed place. On 124 Street, d’Lish opened and closed, and now there’s something new there but I haven’t gotten there yet. Downtown, I can’t remember what’s new since I arrived and what I was just slow to discover because I barely crossed the river my first couple of winters here – Zinc opened since I got here, and Underground is new. La Poutine opened in the Garneau Cinema block – oh, and that reminds me.
Entertainment The Garneau Cinema is now the Metro cinema. I haven’t been there yet. I think the Metro cinema used to be in Ziegler Hall at the Citadel, but now Rapid Fire/Theatresports is there. It used to be at the Varscona Theatre. The Muttart Conservatory was closed for renovations when I got here, and I think the Art Gallery of Alberta was being rebuilt then too. The Oilers still play at Rexall Place, except that they’re not playing. The baseball team that played in Rossdale folded and there might be a new one.
Driving I was here before the big construction project that had 99 Street closed all last summer, I figured out how to work around that, and then it all opened again. I don’t drive often enough to be confident on road directions farther away, but it seems like every time I drive to IKEA, the route changes, the exit to 23rd Avenue looks different, and the sprawl of South Edmonton Common shopping district has gotten bigger. I also think that Fox Drive and nearby routes have been under construction the whole time I’ve lived here.
Stores Two record stores have closed on Whyte Avenue, Southside Sound and the big one I forget the name of, and Permanent Records opened on Gateway. Alternative Video Spot moved and became Videodrome. Urban Knitter opened on Whyte Avenue, moved to Gateway, and closed. Ewe Asked for It and Knit and Purl closed. River City Yarns opened a second location and moved its first location. Greenwoods Books moved back to Whyte Avenue (it’s the one store I knew about from before I moved here), and then closed. Earth’s General Store moved from a central upstairs location on the busy part of Whyte Avenue to a bigger place with parking farther away from the crowds. Lucid Lifestyle moved from a storefront to a pop-up kiosk to a different storefront. Blush Lane Organic Market and other interesting outlets opened in a new building where Pad Thai’s parking lot used to be. A Shell gas station closed on Whyte Avenue. It looks like some progress was made on remediating the other gas-station site on Whyte by 106. A Vespa-scooter dealer with bar closed. I think Blockbuster Video closed, but I haven’t checked. The Shoppers Drug Mart at Whyte and 109 moved across the road to a bigger two-story space, and the old space sits mostly empty. Home Depot just south of Strathcona doesn’t have a Harvey’s in its lobby any more; just more things to buy. Scottish Imports moved from Whyte Avenue to 124 Street just when I was becoming aware of 124 Street as a destination. My hairdresser (Mousy Brown’s), on 124 Street, opened a second location in Old Strathcona. And now I’m one of those people who call things by their old names, because I just learned about Treestone Bakery around the time it was changing hands and becoming Boulangerie Bonjour.
While some of these specific changes make me sad, I love living in a city that’s prosperous enough that I can look forward to new ventures, and that’s big enough that I still have lots and lots to explore beyond the fifteen blocks of Whyte Avenue I’ve gotten to know.
What Edmonton changes make you happy? Which ones make you sad?